Naples: Serie A leader Juventus drew 1-1 at Napoli in a tense top-of-the-table match Friday that could clear the way for the Turin club to win their 28th Italian league title. Juventus remained six points ahead of their southern rival atop the standings with 11 rounds remaining and no more head-to-head meetings scheduled.
"It's still far off mathematically," Juventus manager Antonio Conte said. "We still have to go play at Inter and Lazio, and host Milan." Defender Giorgio Chiellini put Juventus ahead with a header 10 minutes in at the San Paolo stadium and Switzerland midfielder Gokhan Inler equalized for Napoli in the 43rd.
Napoli had a great chance to win but Blerim Dzemaili missed a rebound from Marek Hamsik's shot in the 73rd with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon left out of position. Fans had already gotten up to celebrate but Dzemaili's shot sailed wide. Juventus had beaten Napoli in their previous two meetings after Napoli handed Juve their only loss last season in the Italian Cup final.
"This was a big match," Chiellini said. "We showed we can win the title. We deserve it. I think it was a fair result tonight." On Saturday, third-place Lazio visit fourth-place AC Milan. Lazio are 12 points behind Juve and Milan are 14 points back. Juventus took control at the start, and Chiellini scored by redirecting a cross from Andrea Pirlo as he outjumped Uruguay defender Miguel Britos.
Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic then had two chances to make it a two-goal lead. First he missed a header wide, then Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis made a difficult save with his boot to stop an on-target effort from the Montenegro international. As Napoli began to settle down, the action shifted to the other end and Inler scored with a long shot that deflected in off the head of defender Leonardo Bonucci into the corner of the goal past outstretched Gianluigi Buffon.
In first-half added time, Napoli striker Edinson Cavani was shown a yellow card for elbowing Chiellini in the face after the defender had tugged his hair, and the squads walked off for half-time with the crowd seething that Chiellini had not been cautioned also. After the match was over, Chiellini and Cavani shook hands and exchanged shirts.
"You saw what happened. It's up to the referee to decide what happens on the pitch then once the match is finished it's over," Chiellini said. "That's football." Two days ago, Chiellini was doubtful with a swollen ankle. "It still hurts," he said. "I need to thank all of our physiotherapists. I was just happy able to help the squad." After a slow start to the second half, Pirlo missed a dangerous free kick wide in the 55th and Buffon dove to punch away a long shot from Hamsik in the 58th.
Napoli then had a series of chances, highlighted by Dzemaili's miss and several other efforts from beyond the area. The match was marred by fan violence before kickoff, with a window of the Juventus team bus broken by an object thrown by Napoli supporters as the squads arrived at the stadium. No Juventus players or staff members were injured during the incident, the ANSA news agency reported.
Napoli fans also launched fireworks, flares and eggs at police, according to ANSA. "There were moments of tension," Juventus general director Giuseppe Marotta told Italy's Sky TV. "Honestly, during the trip we were targeted with a bit of everything - pebbles, sizeable rocks, one big enough to break the window where (Ghana midfielder Kwadwo) Asamoah was sitting. "These acts are deplorable and have little to do with sport," Marotta added.
Will Juventus be able to win the Serie A title this year?